Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes were kept alive thanks to Sadio Mane’s stunning header.
While a four-goal victory was required to overtake Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, Jurgen Klopp’s team kept the pressure on by winning a close game.
Former City midfielder Douglas Luiz got the home side off to a great start when he thrashed home an opener from close range in a sloppy opening for Liverpool.
Villa’s split strikers in Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins constantly caused Klopp’s side problems, even after Joel Matip had drawn the teams level by pouncing on Tyrone Mings’ mistake and Emi Martinez’s save from a Virgil van Dijk shot only feet from him.
Ings could well have put Villa ahead when he leapt to connect with a perfect John McGinn cross but the former Liverpool striker saw his header fly over.
Usually so composed, Liverpool were guilty of sloppy touches throughout the first-half. Alisson Becker almost contrived to his very own ‘Zack Steffen moment’ when he passed straight to Watkins, although the England international was taken by surprise and could not control the loose ball.
Even despite that, Naby Keita should have put his side in front. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant low cross found him in acres of space but the midfielder fluffed his lines and missed the ball entirely.
While Fabinho had barely covered himself in glory in his sloppy half an hour at Villa Park, the sight of him limping off injured with what appeared to be a hamstring issue will be of major concern. Chelsea and Real Madrid await in the FA Cup and Champions League finals respectively.
The introduction of Jordan Henderson changed things, however. Liverpool did still have their sloppy moments but the captain calmed things down, helping his team dominate possession both just before and just after the break.
The second-half proved much more composed, without being perfect. Ings, Watkins and Philippe Coutinho all could have caused problems, but a mixture of Van Dijk and Alisson – the players bought with the money received from Villa’s Brazilian star – ensured they did not.
Then came Mane. As rumours regarding a potential move to Bayern Munich swirl, the Senegalese once again came up trumps for his team, executing a glorious glancing header while moving backwards after a Luis Diaz cross.